National Writing Project

NWP Resources for Martin Luther King Day

Date: January 10, 2011

Summary: NWP has collected these resources from NWP teacher-consultants and other sources to enrich the study and celebration of the mission of Dr. Martin Luther King.


There are no students in our K–12 classrooms today who have memories of the 1960s. They have no personal knowledge of segregated lunch counters, "separate but equal" schools, and a time when African Americans could be denied the "equal protection of the law" guaranteed by our constitution.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—January 17, 2011—serves as a reminder to educators of the need to provide students with the knowledge and tools to work toward an equitable society every day, not just on this federal holiday.

NWP has a long history of providing resources relevant to Dr. King's mission. Here are some materials from our archives that will help teachers both celebrate and extend his work.

Brown v. Board of Education at 50: The Long and Winding Road to Educational Equity
In the keynote speech delivered at the 2004 NWP Spring Meeting, author Samuel Yette describes the historical contexts leading up to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

The Other Side of the Stone: Student Conversations with a Graveyard
Patrick Pritchard, a teacher at an alternative school for adolescent, mostly African American boys, uses an African American cemetery in South Carolina to provide his students with source material for writing and learning.

NWP has a long history of providing resources relevant to Dr. King's mission.

A Moment of Understanding: Getting on the Bus of Justice
In this chapter from Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work, Jan Sabin, who is with the Upper Peninsula Writing Project, demonstrates how she pushes her second-graders to write about social justice issues by focusing on familiar things like the cafeteria, the playground, and their homes.

Promoting Social Imagination Through Interior Monologues
The authors demonstrate how the interior monologue form provides students with opportunities to think about why others do what they do and why they think as they think.

21 Seconds to Teach Humanity
Lisa Weinbaum, a teacher-consultant with the Borderlands Writing Project, recounts how she transforms her students' violent behavior by showing them a video of the Shirley Jackson story "The Lottery," then asking them to reflect and write on the inhumane behavior presented in the story.

Gloria Ladson-Billings Reframes the Racial Achievement Gap
Gloria Ladson-Billings suggests reframing the idea of the racial achievement gap as one of educational debt in this address at the 2007 Urban Sites Network Conference in Washington, DC.

African American Learners Project Annotated Bibliography
This collection of readings reflects the contributions of the Thinking and Development Team for the African American Learners Project. These readings are intended to inform the thinking and practice of teacher-consultants and Writing Project sites interested in addressing the racial gap in student achievement.

Helping African American Males Reach Their Academic Potential
Marlene Carter, associate director of the UCLA Writing Project, conducted a two-year study of African American males in her AP English class. The study helped her understand that these students underperform for different reasons and allowed her to focus on the real problems affecting their achievement.

. . . And Justice for All
This teacher-researcher describes the friction when her students explored themes of racism through literature and writing, then recounts how students were able to work through differences and come to a new understanding of one another.

Patricia Smith: "How Do We Lose Our Own Voices?"
In her keynote at the 2010 Urban Sites Network Conference, poet Patricia Smith recounted her mother's life story as she discussed how African American children can lose their valuable histories in order to learn to speak "right."

How the Linguistic Repertoire of Students Can Color Teacher Perceptions
In his research, scholar Samy Alim explores the language of high school students and how it affects their teachers' perceptions of them.

Don't Bite Off da Skreets
Monica McDonald, an African American, argues for the pedagogical value of sometimes communicating with her African American students using recent—and foreign to her—slang.

Ebonics Ain't the Answer
Patricia Smith argues for the primacy of Standard English in the schools. "As black kids, we were introduced to a world we had to enter in order to survive, and . . . offered the tools to get there."

Ebonics and All That Jazz: Cutting Through the Politics of Linguistics, Education, and Race
Michele Foster reviews the linguistic history of Ebonics, discusses instructional approaches for promoting facility with Standard American English while honoring the tradition of Ebonics, and reflects on the politics surrounding the Ebonics issue.

Local Site Inquiry

Teacher Inquiry for Equity: Collaborating to Improve Teaching and Learning
This article by Linda Friedrich and Marilyn McKinney, originally published in NCTE's journal Language Arts, argues that while inquiry is a necessary tool for focusing on learning, collaborative structures are essential if this work is to be focused on equity and on improving learning for underserved students.

Creating Spaces for Study and Action Under the Social Justice Umbrella
This National Writing Project at Work monograph provides an in-depth look at the UCLA Writing Project's approach to exploring two social justice concerns—matters of race and issues of homophobia—and describes two multiyear study groups that engage the learning community at the site.

Bringing Hard Talk to Your Writing Project Site—with the Theatre of the Oppressed
Chris Tsang, a teacher-consultant with the Boston Writing Project, demonstrates how role-play based on the Theatre of the Oppressed offers teachers the opportunity to rehearse conversations around uncomfortable subjects such as race, class, and language. The model can be replicated at Writing Project sites and elsewhere.

Making Connections Between Family and School
In NWP's book Cityscapes, Marci Resnick documents how establishing regular phone contact with the parents of her African American students led her to create a flexible curriculum.

Book Reviews

Reading for Their Life: Poetic Broadsides
In this chapter from Reading for Their Life, Alfred Tatum shares poems and lessons in support of his argument that we should share "poetry worth reading" with African American male students.

Book Review: Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
Lisa Delpit's book reminds us of the need for multicultural voices, rejects the skills-versus-process dichotomy, and presents a critique that can be applied to other than the African American students.

Book Review: Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students
After reading this collection of essays by three leading thinkers in African American education, Mary Tedrow, a teacher-consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project, realized that "the ideas and potential solutions embedded in this book have gone on largely unacknowledged."

Book Review: Culture, Literacy, and Learning: Taking Bloom in the Midst of the Whirlwind
Carol Lee reports on how she taught students to respond to literature in a Chicago public school. Teachers, she concludes, can succeed if they have knowledge about the language, culture, cognition, motivation, and social/emotional realities of urban students.

Book Review: belonging: a culture of place
Finding lessons on the politics of race, class, and belonging that can inform teachers in rural writing projects, Paul Epstein, co-director of the Central West Virginia Writing Project, reviews and recommends bell hooks' book belonging: a culture of place.

Book Review: Teaching for Joy and Justice: Re-imagining the Language Arts Classroom
Vanessa Brown, director of the Philadelphia Writing Project, discusses how Linda Christensen uses her critical pedagogy to confront the challenges of high-stakes curricular mandates for schools while promoting social justice with and for her students.

Other Resources

Thematic and Teaching Ideas for Teaching about Martin Luther King
This Scholastic Publishing–sponsored page links to a treasure trove of sources for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr., from kid-friendly articles on King's early life to dozens of comments from teachers responding to the question "How Do You Celebrate Martin Luther King Day?"

Teacher Planet: Martin Luther King Theme Page
This page provides a number of teacher-developed lessons to learn about and celebrate the life of Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
In keeping with Martin Luther King's query "What are you doing for others?", this site provides a vehicle to help students and others find organizations and locations to work for their communities.

King Center
Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King as a living memorial dedicated to the preservation and advancement of the work of her husband, the King Center provides a wide range of resources including King-related news, historical information, and more.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University
Explore secondary documents written about Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as primary documents written during King's life.

The History of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
This Wikipedia entry traces the history of the establishment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday.

Related Resource Topics

© 2023 National Writing Project